The California table grape industry recently sold 450,000 boxes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of the Tariff Mitigation Program that is focused on providing relief to commodities affected by increased tariffs imposed by China. The grapes were purchased for more than $10 million and will ultimately be delivered to food banks and other food programs around the country. Table grape suppliers submitted bids in a competitive process after going through a rigorous process in order to become a USDA vendor.
“The 2018 season has been a tough one for table grape growers,” California Table Grape Commission President Kathleen Nave said in a news release. “The tariffs on table grapes have been painful but the real harm has been caused by the fact that tariffs on multiple competing commodities, such as cherries, stone fruits, and apples, caused more fruit of all kinds to be sold in the domestic market. The USDA purchasing program comes at a good time for table grape growers and is appreciated.”
A report from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Issues Center indicates that the increased tariffs could cost U.S. fruit and nut industries as much as $3.34 billion. The California table grape industry expressed appreciation when table grapes were added to the USDA Food Purchasing Program for the first time. As part of the overall trade mitigation program, USDA has previously announced that it would be setting aside $12 billion to assist agricultural industries impacted by the tariffs.
Shipments of California grapes to China have seen a decline of more than 42 percent in volume and more than 41 percent in value compared to last year, according to information from USDA. Record levels of California grape inventories have compounded the problem facing the industry, as supply has had a negative impact on overall prices for table grapes. USDA numbers show the average shipping point price for all varieties and sizes of domestic table grapes was 22 percent lower than last year for week 47.